Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry
Genre: Young Adult, Post-Apocalyptic, Zombies
Publisher: Simon and Schuster
My Rating: 4/5
Synopsis: Nearly fourteen years ago, a freak virus swept across the world – turning those infected into the undead. Benny Imura has grown-up never knowing anything different; his last memory of his parents was of them becoming zombies. Now Benny is fifteen, and joining his brother Tom in the ‘family business’ of zombie killing.
Benny and Tom head into the Rot and Ruin, an area full of the wandering undead, and Benny realises that being a bounty hunter isn’t just about whacking zombies. Benny finds his beliefs challenged – and discovers that sometimes the worst monsters you can imagine aren’t the zombies, after all…
If you’ve read my post of my favourite zombie novels, you’ll know I have a big love for zombies, but that it can be difficult to find books in the genre that aren’t corny or poorly written. For some reason, I’d just never bothered giving the Rot and Ruin series a chance, but now I’m glad that I have.
Good plotting, eloquent writing and a refreshing look at zombies, Maberry has crafted an excellent YA horror with equal parts gore and humanity. And it’s the humanity that I really enjoyed. If you’re looking for a book where zombies are smashed to bits and not a lot else, then don’t bother with this novel. But if you’re looking for a book that deals with the complications regarding the morality around zombie killing, questions on how ‘human’ zombies still are, and a good amount of action, then this is the book for you.
Maberry teaches us that it isn’t the zombies – ‘zoms’ – we should really hate, but the humans who do things consciously.
“These zoms, every last one of them – even the smallest child – would kill him if they could, but not one of them meant him harm. Meaning, intention, will… None of that was part of their makeup. There was no more malice there than in a lightning strike or bacteria on a rusted nail.”
The true villains of the novel are the men trafficking children to an almost sicker version of The Hunger Games, where they throw kids into pits full of zombies and make them fight for their amusement. Maberry showcases the horrors of a world where law is no longer enforced by an omnipotent government, and many are to frightened to enact justice. That is, except Benny Imura, his older brother and protector Tom, and their friends, including the mysterious and vicious Lost Girl.
Maberry’s character development is very good, his characters three-dimensional and individual from each other. I especially liked Tom Imura and the Lost Girl. Both have witnessed unspeakable horrors, but Tom channels that into his ‘compassionate’ business (I won’t spoil exactly what he does), and the Lost Girl into seeking revenge. I did like the protagonist Benny. He’s funny and brash, but with a big heart. However, I struggled a little to get into the mindset of a 15-year-old and his 14-year-old friends, but I’m sure many other slightly younger readers wouldn’t have that problem.
My only small gripe is that something just didn’t quite work for me in the big finale. It wasn’t rushed or predictable, but something just didn’t seem right. I can’t put my finger on it. It might have been the dialogue, which was good throughout, but I think it lacked the punch it needed in a finale. However, there isn’t much I can fault in this book. I’m really looking forward to the other books in the series and, seeing as Benny has matured by the end of this novel, I should find it easier to get into his mindset. Hopefully, Maberry doesn’t fall into the trap of ‘gore, gore and more gore’, but instead keeps the stark humanity that made this novel so refreshing.
Have you the read Rot and Ruin series? What did you think? Let me know in the comments!